Politicians who don't mind appearing to carry water for the National Rifle Association offered a swift, knee-jerk response to President Obama's new executive measures to regulate gun sales.

"No president should be able to reverse legislative failure by executive fiat," said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.). No doubt the congressman used the words "executive fiat" to rattle people who fear Obama often exceeds his presidential powers. But it's the "legislative failure" Ryan alluded to that is more concerning.

Congress again and again has failed to place reasonable limits on gun sales that could help stem the daily gun carnage across America. Not even the mass murders that occur too frequently in this country, including the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting that left 14 dead last month, could get Congress to act.

Having addressed the American public following mass shootings eight times as president, Obama decided to bypass Congress and do what he could within the limits of presidential authority. It's actually very little, but it's more than can be expected of senators and representatives who think nothing of padding their campaign chests with NRA cash.

The most significant of Obama's executive orders clarifies who qualifies as a gun dealer and is therefore subject to federal law requiring purchasers to undergo background checks. That will help close the loophole used at gun shows and on websites by sellers claiming to be hobbyists. It's not a hobby if you're advertising and passing out business cards.

In fact, three years ago, Ryan told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board that he supported closing the gun-show loophole. But he chided the president Tuesday for subverting Congress. If Ryan feels so strongly about the separation of powers, he can avoid executive orders by advocating reasonable legislation to regulate gun sales.

The White House said the FBI is hiring 230 new examiners and other personnel to speed up background checks by conducting them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It wouldn't violate anyone's gun ownership rights for Congress to fund additional law enforcement personnel Obama is asking for. Similarly, Congress shouldn't worry about offending the NRA by appropriating $500 million that Obama requested to expand mental-health services.

In the final year of his presidency, Obama is determined to reduce the 30,000 deaths a year that result from gun violence, including suicides and accidents. "Somehow we've become numb to it, and we start thinking that this is normal," he said. Unfortunately, it has become normal for Congress to oppose any response to the violence.